Hard to believe it, but there are still a few people out there who don’t know the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). These women, 1,104 who made the cut, volunteered for duty during World War II, and flew every aircraft that was manufactured for the fight, from trainers to bombers to fighters. They delivered aircraft from factories, ferried aircraft all over North America, towed targets for gunnery training and tested aircraft to make sure they were safe before they were deployed in battle overseas.
For their dedication and hard work they were thanked and sent home at the end of the war. It was the late 1970s before they were recognized for their service and accorded veterans’ benefits, and 2010 before they received a Congressional Medal honoring their sacrifices for their country.
Today, only a few of the WASPs are still alive, but they are a feisty crowd when they get together. Several were present at The Ninety-Nines building on the Sun ’n Fun Campus this week, reveling in the honors bestowed upon them for their 70th anniversary. The WASPs spoke at a forum, attended a luncheon in their honor, received a proclamation from Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, and attended a tribute concert in their honor. They signed countless photos and posters for donations; you see, these fine ladies have had their application for a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade 2014 accepted by the city of Pasadena. Now they just need to raise the money to build the float and get themselves to California!